In Memoriam Lily Ling

It is with immeasurable sadness that I relay the news of Professor L.H.M Ling’s passing earlier this week. Although she was recovering from an illness, Lily’s death still comes as a very nasty surprise to many of her academic colleagues.

Here is in part the New School’s statement:


It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the passing of our colleague L.H.M. Ling, Professor of International Affairs. Her loss will be profoundly felt at The New School and in academic communities beyond.

Lily was an imaginative and generative scholar, colleague, and mentor whose academic work shaped non-western feminist approaches to international affairs. In her teaching, she challenged and inspired students to transcend conventional thinking and to be bold in enacting their values. She was the author of four influential books on world politics and international relations and the editor of four anthologies; she also wrote poetry, fables, and plays, and had another monograph and co-edited volume forthcoming.

Lily wrote a fantastic chapter for the International Politics of Fashion book on ‘Orientalism Refashioned: Eastern Moon in Western Waters’, based on the ‘China Through the Looking Glass’ exhibition at the Met in 2015. In it, she developed the concept of ‘positive Orientalism’, a fascinating interpretation and reworking of a central concept in post-colonial studies, of which she was one of the foremost and most influential representative. She was kind and generous enough to credit me with the suggestion to visit that exhibition, but I certainly take no credit for the inspired result of her visit.

She was a beautiful mind and a brilliant and challenging scholar. But above all, she was a wonderful, generous and warm person, fond of conversations and always willing to share her ideas with me – often offered with a buoyant laugh. And while we met all too rarely during the annual three-ring circus that is the ISA, we would always pick up the conversation again with ease.

It’s a pity that next book on A Wordly World Order is not coming out now. I had the honour of being asked by Lily to review some sections of the draft, and she promised to send some responses back to me. It promised to be another exciting discussion. The last emails I received from her suggested that she wanted to include a passage of Goethe’s West-Östlicher Divan in the Introduction.

Know yourself and in that instant

Know the Other and see therefore

Orient and Occident

Cannot be parted for evermore. 


I shall miss her very much.

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